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Press: San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle

Six of a Kind
Michael Bauer
Sunday, December 6, 2009

Favorite Bay Area Clam Chowders

December seems to be the time we welcome rich chowders and stews into our dining repertoire. One of the most popular choices is clam chowder; it shows up on more menus than just about any other soup. While most diners in the Bay Area lean toward the New England style, the term is used loosely, basically incorporating anything that is white, creamy and includes clams. Some will be thick with cream, others will be thinned with milk, still others will get a boost from bacon or even sausage.

Here are six different, but equally wonderful, examples of one of December's favorite soups.

Sam's Chowder House

"Chowder" deserves to be in the name of this sprawling restaurant overlooking the ocean at Half Moon Bay. Diners have their choice of either the creamy Boston style or the spicier tomato-based Manhattan. If you don't want to drive to the coast, you can call Sam's Chowder Mobile to come to your next party.

4210 N. Cabrillo Hwy., Half Moon Bay; (650) 712-0245.r Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations accepted.

Anchor Oyster Bar

With stainless steel tables and chairs set against pristine white tile, this 33-year-old Castro restaurant knows what it does well: fresh crab, shrimp salads and simply prepared seafood. The clam chowder (above) is classic, more milky than thick, dominated by clams and celery. Sprinkle on a few oyster crackers from the cache on the table.

579 Castro St,, San Francisco; (415) 431-3990. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat., dinner Sun. No reservations.


This popular Pacific Heights restaurant offers a style of chowder called the Hartford. It's the creamy New England-style soup with a few spoonfuls of red Manhattan chowder swirled in to add high notes. You can also go pure and order each style separately, along with a menu of well-prepared fish.

1914 Fillmore St. (near Pine), San Francisco; (415) 437-2722. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations.

Hog Island Oyster Company

Anyone who loves oysters gravitates toward this restaurant in the Ferry Building, with its impressive iced seafood bar and a patio overlooking the bay. The oyster stew and the clam chowder are as fresh-tasting as the oysters on the half shell. In both cases, rich cream, enhanced with bacon, carries the flavor of the seafood.

11-A Ferry Building, (Market Street at the Embarcadero), San Francisco; (415) 391-7117. hogisland Lunch and early dinner daily. No reservations.

Swan Oyster Depot

With roots stretching back to 1912, this 20-seat oyster bar and retail fish shop continues to draw lines of hungry diners waiting for a chance to crack a few crabs. Most swear by the Boston clam chowder; it has the consistency of soup, which allows the flavors of the seafood to shine.

1517 Polk St. (near California), San Francisco; (415) 673-1101. 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat. No reservations. Cash only.

Sea Salt

This Berkeley restaurant avoids offending New England-style chowder-lovers by calling its version White Clam Chowder. It's a light, fresh, creamy broth filled with seafood and perfectly diced cubes of potatoes, garnished with chopped parsley and crisp bits of bacon.

2512 San Pablo Ave. (at Dwight Way), Berkeley; (510) 883-1720.r Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations accepted.